The UK government has confirmed it will economically support the country’s freelancers during the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking in the daily press briefing from Number 10, chancellor Rishi Sunak said it will “pay self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus a taxable grant worth 80% of their average month’s profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 ($3,000) a month”.
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The measures will cover anyone who makes the majority of profits from their freelance work, and has profits not exceeding £50,000 ($61,000). To qualify you must have registered as self-employed with a tax return for 2019, Sunak added, though there will be an extended deadline of four weeks from now for those who have not yet filed.
The chancellor claimed this would cover “95% of people who are majority self employed”. It will last for at least three months from now, and freelancers can continue to earn money as well as claim the benefit, Sunak said.
The money will be available from the beginning of June with payments backdated to March 1, and freelancers will be contacted directly, he explained. Until then, self-employed workers can access business interruption loans, or Universal Credit. Income tax payments will also be deferred until January next year.
Workers who are furloughed, i.e. forced to take unpaid leave by their employer while the crisis continues, are also covered by the measures for freelancers.
The UK government has been facing increasing pressure to introduce policy to support the country’s self-employed, after last week it put in place economic measures to support businesses. Bodies representing workers in the creative industries, many of whom are freelance, have been particular vocal.
The head of one such Union, Bectu’s Philippa Childs, sent us the below instant reaction:
“Bectu has pushed incredibly hard for freelancers and the self-employed to have parity with employees and the scale of the chancellor’s announcement clearly sets out to achieve that. However, we won’t stop and there are still many details to work through including how those who have paid themselves through dividends will fit into this scheme and also the time-scale.
“We know that the benefits system is under intense pressure with a five-week wait for payments to be made and the self-employed and freelancers should have access to the coronavirus business interruption loans made available by the government. We are committed to working with the Treasury to ensure as many people as possible can be covered by this scheme and sharing information across the creative industries.”
“I’m proud of what we’ve done so far but I know many self-employed people are deeply anxious about what’s available for them,” commented Sunak as he introduced the new measures. “There will be challenging times ahead. We will not be able to protect every job or save every single business,” the chancellor added.
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